Schenectady

Finding a home: Empire State Youth Orchestra finally gets space to call its own in Scotia

Empire State Youth Orchestra Executive Director Becky Calos and Music Director Etienne Abelin outside former St. Joseph Church Parish Center, the orchestra's new home in Scotia on Friday, April 1, 2022.
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Empire State Youth Orchestra Executive Director Becky Calos and Music Director Etienne Abelin outside former St. Joseph Church Parish Center, the orchestra's new home in Scotia on Friday, April 1, 2022.

GLENVILLE – As music from the Empire State Youth Orchestra played across the public address system at the former St. Joseph’s Parish School in Scotia, ESYO Executive Director Becky Calos walked through the building explaining the future concept of each room. 

The organization bought the 18,000 square-foot building on eight acres of land at 45 McArthur Drive, and afters its recent announcement, its leaders laid out plans for the orchestra’s future space. 

“We’ve been looking for a home for quite some time,” Calos said. 

When she joined the organization in 2013, Calos started giving board members tours of various buildings in the hope of finding a location to call their own.

“We just couldn’t find the right place,” she said. 

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But eventually they came across 45 McArthur Drive, which Calos referred to as hitting the sweet spot for what they needed. 

The organization currently has 400 students, but typically works with around 500 youth musicians from 12 counties in the Capital Region, the Hudson Valley, Western Massachusetts, and Southern Vermont.

Because the orchestra has various ensembles it needs both a large space for the orchestra to practice together, such as the gym, but also smaller rooms where students can work with smaller groups or even individually. “The classrooms at the center offer those more individualized spaces,” Calos said. 

But, Calos said the building will need some work before the musicians –  now split between practicing at Brown School, The College of Saint Rose and Proctors – can move into the space.

“The thing for us is the bones are good,” she said. 

Images: A look around the Empire State Youth Orchestra’s new home in Scotia (12 Photos)

Some of that work includes building new entrances into rooms so that each of the pieces of equipment can fit into the spaces. 

“We can’t actually move into the building until we all can,” Calos said. 

Right now, she said there’s no move-in date until those issues are resolved. 

The space also offers potential for other programs down the road, Calos said. Those ideas are being explored now, as the organization works on its fundraising efforts. 

Board chairman Omar Williams said he’s excited for the new endeavor.

Williams has been part of ESYO since he was in the 8th grade. He plays the trumpet. He remembers getting lost trying to find the practice space they were using at UAlbany during his first rehearsal. 

The new space offers the potential for collaboration, Williams said. 

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“When I was coming up through ESYO we always knew that there were ensembles, but we never got to see them that much,” he said. 

He said he went the classical route, but knew there were jazz and percussion ensembles but never really got to see them.

“I think having a space where we are all located just creates this possibility that we could have so many more interactions between styles of music and the kids who we all serve,” he said.

The best part though about the space is just having a space to call their own, said Etienne Abelin, the orchestra’s new music director.

The new space will allow for a different kind of music-making synergy, he said.

“Atmosphere is so important to making music,” Abelin said. 

Right now because the orchestra practices in three different areas they can’t really put their stamp on it, he said. 

“Making music is all about being together and sharing together,” Abelin said.

Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @SB_DailyGazette.

Images: A look around the Empire State Youth Orchestra’s new home in Scotia (12 Photos)

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